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SA Women Challenge Stereotypes in ‘Secrets of a Soccer Mom’

by: Bekah McNeel – April 4, 2016
Originally Published by The Rivard Report

In light of recent discussions surrounding diversity in the arts, AtticRep’s Secrets of a Soccer Mom may prove to be the kind of quietly subversive show to speak to San Antonio’s current arts climate.

Soccer Mom runs April 7-17 at the Carlos Alvarez theater at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are available online or at the box office.

The show itself challenges ideas about motherhood, womanhood, and identity, and director Marisela Barrera takes that interrogation a step further. As a Latina director with a culturally diverse cast and crew, Barrera adds a layer of local culture to further invite audience members to question their assumptions.

“AtticRep is one of the most multicultural theater companies in San Antonio,” Barrera said.

AtticRep actresses Maggie Tonra, Georgette Lockwood, and Anna De Luna rehearse for their upcoming performance in “Soccer Mom,” directed by Marisela Barrera. Photo by Bria Woods.AtticRep actresses Maggie Tonra, Georgette Lockwood, and Anna De Luna during dress rehearsal of Secrets of a Soccer Mom. Photo by Bria Woods.
Soccer Mom is the kind of up close, emotive storytelling AtticRep does exceptionally well. In the more intimate Carlos Alvarez theater, audience members will enter the world of three “soccer moms” as they wrestle with their past, present, and changing identities over the course of a mothers vs. sons soccer game.

Kathleen Clark’s comedic script intended to explore the assumptions that mothers, exemplified by the soccer moms, were lost in the lives of their children, almost as though their former lives had been wiped clean upon the birth of their first child.

Producing artistic director Roberto Prestigiacomo’s decision to produce a play written by, directed by, and starring women is far from normative in the current theater world. Currently only 18% of plays are produced by women, and little material exists to probe into the experience of women, much less mothers.

By looking at this least-glamorous time in a woman’s life, Barrera wants to highlight the loss women experience when women feel the burden to forget who they are.

“A female, a woman, a mother, is of course a nurturing being, but is also a human,” Barrera said.

Maggie Tonra’s character yells at another character during an eight hour tech rehearsal for AtticRep’s production of “Secrets of a Soccer Mom” directed by Marisela Barrera at the Tobin Center for Performing Arts.

Clark’s play debuted in 2008 to mixed reviews. While most agreed it was witty, sharp, and wry in all the right places, many critics chided the cliche of privileged, white women complaining about their lives. With Barrera at the helm, some of the insights Clark tried to achieve may find more depth. Barrera herself is a former soccer mom, but not the Lululemon-wearing, latte-sipping, white Escalade-driving kind.

“My first image of a soccer mom is me on the sidelines of the YMCA soccer field,” Barrera said, “It’s very westside.”

Barrera comes at the stereotypes from all angles, challenging ideas of class and gender with more tools than an all-white production has at its disposal.

The three actors, Anna De Luna, Georgette Lockwood, and Margaret Tonra, bring diverse experience to the stage. Two have Latina heritage. Tonra teaches theater at MacArthur High School. All three are local to San Antonio, and bring a slightly less yuppie feel to the soccer field setting.

To help them capture the atmosphere, Barrera held rehearsals the soccer field on the Our Lady of the Lake University campus, where she is a graduate fellow in OLLU’s MFA-MA program for Literature, Creative Writing, and Social Justice. She set up workshops with the soccer coach, and helped the women understand bleacher culture in the San Antonio context.

Intersections of race, gender, and family are not new territory for Barrera. The director’s previous project, Lydia, was about an immigrant family negotiating Mexican and American identities. It was the first show she directed with AtticRep, Soccer Mom is her second.

“I’ll make sure that it’s not my last,” Barrera said.

She appreciates the company’s devotion to craft, and the way that the minimal productions allow artists to dig into the essentials, and test the boundaries of their skills.

“AtticRep is a place where theater artists can roll up their sleeves and get to work with their craft,” Barrera said.

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